A proposed council-funded trip to the Queensland’s Tara gasfields, intended to inform councillors, was voted down at Tuesday night’s Lismore City Council (LCC) meeting.
Cr Grahame Meineke put forward the motion partly as a response to planning minister Brad Hazzard’s comment last month to mayor Jenny Dowell that CSG is ‘coming whether they like it or not’.
Cr Meineke suggested that councillors needed to ‘go to the source and find out for ourselves the benefits and disbenefits [sic] of the industry’. Cr Meineke proposed that the funding for such a trip could come from Council’s professional development fund.
It was originally proposed that LCC councillors travel with their fellow Richmond Valley Councillors (RVC), who recently voted to undertake their own fact-finding mission, but RVC have since made it clear that they will go it alone.
Cr Meineke reiterated his CSG stance from his election campaign that he ‘will not support CSG until it is proven safe’, and also commented that ‘politics are strange bedfellows as a Greens poster displayed during the recent local election campaign stated the same’.
Cr Simon Clough did not oppose councillors visiting the gas fields but rejected the motion. He informed council and the gallery that he ‘has personally done my own research, read the Strategic Regional Land Use Police (SRLUP), watched videos, talked to farmers and people who have extensively travelled the area including the Knitting Nannas’.
‘I am more concerned about stopping CSG here. I am in no way accepting the minister for planning’s statement,’ he said.
‘I am supporting the community and saying “absolutely no”. I don’t have time to go up to the gasfields. I am dedicating my time to doing one-on-one action training, working with the community, doing the CSG-free community work etc.’
Cr Gianpiero Battista supported the motion. ‘We could be basing our information on what may not be correct. Let’s go to the source. I personally do not have the funds to visit the gasfields on my own.’
Cr Isaac Smith asked LCC general manager Gary Murphy for clarification on the use of Council’s professional development fund to research an issue.
‘I think this sets a dangerous precedent where any councillor could go away and research any issue and I don’t feel that is what professional development is.’
The GM confirmed that professional development funding is only available for seminars and conferences.
The motion was voted down, with councillors Dowell, Clough, Ekins, Smith, Ritchie and Houston all voting against.